Robot for Spinal Surgery Receives FDA Approval

Device expected to be in use in 2004

Jun 09, 2004, 01:00 ET from American Technion Society

    HAIFA, Israel and NEW YORK, June 9 /PRNewswire/ -- A miniature robot for
 fail-proof spinal procedures has received FDA approval. Named SpineAssist, the
 robot is the brainchild of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Mechanical
 Engineering Professor Moshe Shoham. It will be manufactured and marketed by
 Mazor Surgical Technologies, the company founded by Shoham in 2001.
     The robot offers surgeons improved accuracy during complicated back
 surgery while minimizing risks associated with spinal surgical procedures.
 Such risks include nerve damage, which according to industry statistics,
 happens in 2 to 3 percent of spine injuries. No bigger than a soda can, it is
 attached directly to the patient's body, pointing surgeons to the exact
 positioning needed for tools and implants. This is critical, says Professor
 Shoham, since a mistake in placement of even a few millimeters can cause
 irreversible nerve damage or paralysis.
     "SpineAssist minimizes the risk of working free hand in sensitive regions
 of the spine," explains Prof. Shoham. "It conceives a plan for locating the
 spinal implants, but neither replaces the surgeon nor performs any operations.
 After examining and approving the recommendation, the surgeon inserts surgical
 instruments through the arm of the robot, thereby minimizing the danger of
 damaging vital organs."
     Shoham adds that because of its high level of accuracy, SpineAssist
 reduces surgery time and invasiveness, expedites recovery and minimizes
 associated risks -- such as infection and blood loss -- of traditional spine
     Mazor has already installed the first systems at the Cleveland Clinic
 Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio and Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer,
 Israel. The company expects to install more of them at other spine centers in
 Europe and in the United States later this year.
     The robot is being tested on a limited basis by a team led by Prof. E.
 Benzel and Dr. I. Lieberman at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Clinical
 trials are underway at Israeli spine centers located at Sheba Medical Center,
 Rabin Medical Center and Carmel Hospital. The locations in Israel will be the
 first to perform full-scale surgeries utilizing the device.
     More than 500,000 spine surgeries are performed annually in the United
 States alone -- a number currently growing by 8 percent a year. This creates a
 large potential market for the SpineAssist. According to analysts' reports,
 the spinal industry is expected to triple its growth over the next eight
 years, reaching annual sales of $7 billion.
     Mazor representatives predict that SpineAssist will become widely used.
 "The combination of precision, simplicity and performance reliability will
 play a key role in the success of the product and company," says Ori Hadomi,
 the company's CEO. Mazor will begin marketing SpineAssist in the final quarter
 of 2004, at an estimated cost of $100,000 per unit.
     According to Hadomi, the SpineAssist technology can also be applied to
 brain and knee surgeries, but adds that Mazor is focusing specifically on the
 spinal area for now. In another project, Professor Shoham is working on a
 surgical robot so small that it can actually fit inside a patient's spinal
     The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel's leading science
 and technology university. It commands a worldwide reputation for its
 pioneering work in computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management,
 materials engineering, aerospace and medicine.  The majority of the founders
 and managers of Israel's high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York
 City, the American Technion Society is the leading American organization
 supporting higher education in Israel, with more than 20,000 supporters and 17
 offices around the country.
     Founded by Technion Professor Moshe Shoham in 2001, Mazor Surgical
 Technologies is located in Israel and employs 20 employees. To date, the
 company has raised over 9.5 Million dollars in two rounds. Several
 international VC funds have already invested in Mazor, including VC firm Alice
 Ventures, Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation, Shalom Equity Fund, Dor
 Ventures, ProSeed VC Fund and Israel Technology Partners.

SOURCE American Technion Society